A few years ago, I came up with a way of looking at life that has helped me get through many miserable events. I've never seen it described anywhere, and if you know of any writers who have expressed a similar perspective, please tell me.
Say you're driving through the Mojave desert. What would you rather have happen to you: (1) You suffer a tire blowout, which leads to a 45-minute ordeal of changing the tire in 110-degree conditions, during which an overweight cop stops to hang out and watch for awhile, offering no physical help whatsoever. Or, (2) you don't suffer the blowout, and you spend the same 45 minutes in air-conditioned luxury listening to your favorite CD.
Most people would pick (2). If you were experiencing (1) right now — as my 85-year-old uncle did last year — you'd almost certainly elect to switch over to (2) if you could. I am here to tell you, though, that (1) is the preferable experience to have. Here's why.
There's a common expression that goes, "Someday, we'll all have a good laugh about this." Meaning, this may not seem like much fun now, but in the long run it won't matter; we'll remember it as being funny. I've taken this sentiment a bit further. Consider this: Five years after your trip through the Mojave Desert, what will you recall about it? If you experienced (2), probably nothing. But if you experienced (1), you'll have a rich memory of a miserable 45 minutes. You'll have a story with which to regale your friends, complete with the colorful character of the fat, gawking cop. I dare say that on your deathbed, scenario (1) will have provided you with a slightly richer, more memorable life than scenario (2). Did the fact that you were miserable at the time have any negative bearing on your life, long-term? Of course not. A few minutes of misery enriched you for a lifetime. In the big picture of things, it was the far better experience to have.
This manner of thinking applies best to annoying but ultimately benign events, as in the Mojave example; if you developed heat stroke changing the tire and sustained brain damage, that wouldn't be good at all. Similarly, some experiences, such as suffering a family tragedy, are unquestionably negative. However, even in the worst of times, you can comfort yourself somewhat by realizing that this experience can and will enrich you, make you stronger, make you more aware, better rounded as a person. The point is to try to zoom out and imagine the big picture, and think of how the present may impact your life in some way for the better. It isn't easy, but it's something to consider when your only other option seems to be wallowing in your misery.
To me, the worst way you can spend a day is to watch mindless TV on your couch. If you spent your whole life like that, sure, you might never endure a moment of discomfort — but in the end, what would you have to look back on? Nothing!
Think about what I've said the next time you can't believe "this" is happening to you. Just try to be glad that something is happening in your life — anything at all.